Had my first introduction to a NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve Association) over this past weekend thanks to an invitation from Arlette (KnineBirdDog) Loaded up the minivan (hurts to admit that) with my wife, son, and needed supplies and off we went. The trial was being held near Parks (back in the woods quite a ways) in a large open field with various types of ground cover. There must have been roughly 20 or so people there running multiple braces with multiple dogs. Saturday was the regional trial where the more experienced dogs were being run. I guess this one was mandatory in order to get a dog in consideration for "Dog of the Year". The field was divided into 2 large fields, (field A and field B) and two handlers (each with one dog) ran the field the organizer gave them. There were judges there on horseback and each judge was supposed to stay with one dog, and the other judge stayed with the other. The handlers and their dogs were allowed 30 minutes to find the 5 or 6 birds that had been planted. The dogs were scored on various categories (can't remember them all) on style, how they covered the field, how well they held a point, how well they backed, retrieved, and how obedient the dogs were to the handler's commands. The dogs I saw working were Brittany’s, English pointers, English setters, or German Shorthair pointers. There may have been additional breeds there, but the majority to me seemed to be Brittany’s and English pointers. The day started out at around 0700 and ran until roughly 1700 that night. It was really neat to see how the dogs worked - some of them hunted in HUGE circles much beyond what I (I'm an extreme novice in this area) would have been comfortable with. Most of the dogs were extremely well behaved and it was thrilling to watch them do what they are bred to do. It became very apparent to me why people get into trouble buying a sporting/working dog and expecting them to be only a house pet. They then wonder why they're so hyper. Let me tell you, these dogs have some serious drive and I would bet some of them would work until they expired if it weren't for their handlers knowing when to make them stop. After the day was over, all the participants met for a potluck dinner with plenty of good natured ribbing back and forth. A silent auction and raffle closed out the day. Just about everyone went to bed shortly thereafter so they could get up again and start the open trial the next morning at 0700. My wife and son slept in the tent while I opted to rack out under the stars. It's funny how the ground somehow was a lot harder than it was in my younger days, but it did give me some time to look at the field of stars that I can't see from my house in the valley due to all the light pollution. We watched Bob and Arlette run a couple of braces with their dogs (Bob's dog took third in the regional (congrat's Bob!)) before we decided to come on back to the valley of Hell (temp was 109 at the house in Queen Creek). My son had never been to Sedona, so we took 89A from Flag on down. He fell asleep shortly after getting off the 17 and woke up in Black Canyon City -so much for the side trip... Overall we had a great time. I had not been to a NSTRA trial before and really learned a lot. What I really took from the event was where my dog needs to get to and just how much work I'll have to put in with her to get her there. I'd highly encourage anyone with gundog interests to go check one of these trials out. We met a lot of really good people too.